Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and erstwhile Lagos State Governor, Senator Bola Tinubu, are locked in a war of attrition over the formation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet.
Already, former Lagos State Commissioner for Finance and a nominee of Tinubu into the cabinet, Mr. Wale Edun, has become the first casualty of the ego war.
Sources told New Telegraph that Edun, who Tinubu had recommended to Buhari to be Minister of Finance, has been dropped despite being screened by the Department of State Services (DSS). He is to be replaced by former Lagos State Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, Mr. Yemi Cardoso, as a Lagos representative in the cabinet.
Cardoso is the chairman, Citibank Nigeria Limited. In preparation for the coveted seat, Edun had led the All Progressives Congress (APC) delegation to Washington to attend the spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) in April.
Edun’s problem started when a group of influential Lagos indigenes, including traditional rulers and some of his colleagues that served in the Tinubu administration, kicked against his choice as a Lagos State ministerial nominee. The opposition informed the decision of Tinubu to ensure Edun becomes Ogun State nominee. But Obasanjo and the Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, also kicked.
A source informed New Telegraph that Obasanjo called Tinubu and advised him to desist from pushing Edun as Ogun State nominee. He was said to have warned that Ogun people would not allow Tinubu to fill the slot of the state with somebody whose work and career were rooted in Lagos State.
The former president reportedly cited the example of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, from Ogun State, whom Tinubu nominated as vicepresident, adding that he considered Osinbajo to be more of a Lagosian than an indigene of Ogun State.
It was learnt that Obasanjo and Amosun have agreed to give the state’s slot in the cabinet to a former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Auditor, Chief Bode Mustapha. Sources said the two recent visits of Obasanjo to Buhari in Abuja was first to submit his ministerial list and for further consultations.
A source in the presidency told New Telegraph that Obasanjo’s nominees include: former Osun State Governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola (Osun); former Governor of Ekiti State and now the Deputy National Chairman (South) of the APC, Chief Segun Oni (Ekiti); Mustapha (Ogun); former Minister of Education, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili and erstwhile Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo.
The source added that the submission of the ministerial list by Obasanjo to the president informed the September 9 visit of Tinubu and former Interim National Chairman of APC, Chief Bisi Akande, to Buhari, 24 hours after the former president visited. “Tinubu and Akande’s visit to President Buhari on September 9 was an impromptu meeting. An influential official in the presidency told them of Obasanjo’s surreptitious moves to corner the ministerial nominees from the South-West.
This is why the two leaders visited,” the source said. At the meeting with Buhari, Tinubu and Akande reportedly told the president that South-West APC leaders would not accept a situation where Obasanjo would determine those who become ministers.
It was learnt that Tinubu and Akande did not oppose the choice of Oyinlola as a minister representing Osun State. “It was a moral issue. Obasanjo is not a member of the APC and cannot appropriate the positions of the zone to himself. The South-West leaders have been meeting for two months on the ministerial nominee, only for Obasanjo to sit in Ota and draw up a ministerial list. That is why the leaders kicked against the idea. “That will be killing the party in the South-West.
He can’t be an alternate APC. Obasanjo should be respected as a leader, but he can’t hijack what belongs to the region. “On Obasanjo’s ministerial list, former Governor Oyinlola featured just as his name featured from the list submitted from the state.
There was no resistance to Oyinlola’s nominee because that was part of the agreement before his defection from the PDP to the APC. The party has fulfilled one leg of the agreement by ceding the senatorial slot to Senator Isiaka Adeleke who also defected from PDP to the APC,” an influential member of the APC said. The source added that based on Tinubu’s complaint, Buhari reportedly promised to look into the issue.
As it is, Obasanjo has been given two ministerial slots of Ogun and Osun – Mustapha and Oyinlola – while Tinubu and South- West leaders would fill the four other slots remaining in the geopolitical zone.
One of sources said Buhari, who had promised to constitute his cabinet by September 30, would submit the ministerial list to the National Assembly next week either before his trip to New York on Tuesday to attend the United Nations conference, or on his return from the trip. In addition, it was learnt that the DSS had screened ministerial nominees and forwarded its report to the president.
Those who failed the integrity test had been replaced. It was learnt that Buhari had settled for former Rivers State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, as the nominee from the state; notwithstanding the opposition against his candidacy from top officials of the PDP government in the state. Amaechi, who was the Director-General of the APC
Presidential Campaign Council, lost out in the bid for the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). One of the sources also said a former Governor of old Abia State, Dr. Ogbannaya Onu, had been asked to choose between being a minister and getting an ambassadorial posting. The source said Onu, who also lost out in the SGF race, had settled for the Ebonyi ministerial slot. Former presidential candidate and renowned economist, Prof. Pat Utomi, is the likely nominee of Delta State.
A group of professionals of which Vice-President Osinbajo belongs, is rooting for Utomi. Former Governor of Kano State and now a senator, Dr. Rabiu Kwankwaso, is likely going to make the ministerial list. Kwankwaso, who was Minister of Defence in the Obasanjo administration, may retain the position in the Buhari cabinet.
Although, a former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Abdurahman Dambazzau, who is being touted as the next Minister of Defence, has been screened, one of the sources said he might be given another portfolio.
“The president is considering having a civilian as his Minister of Defence. The basis for this is that there is always a friction between the service chiefs and the minister of defence with a military background. Don’t forget that the president is a retired general. So, if Kwankwaso makes it to the cabinet, he may end up as defence minister having held the portfolio before,” the source said.
In Edo State, either former Executive Chairman, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mrs. Ifueko Omogui-Okauru or erstwhile Special Adviser to Obasanjo on Programme and Policy Monitoring, Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, may get the state’s slot. Omogui-Okauru, who stepped down as FIRS chairman in April 2012, was recently appointed by the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El- Rufai, to head the Kaduna State Tax Reform Committee. Ihonvbere is the Secretary to the Edo State Government (SSG) and believed to be the nominee of Governor Adams Oshiomhole.
New Telegraph learnt that the only name submitted for consideration as minister for Kwara State is that of Mr. Bolaji Abdullahi, an ally of the Senate President Bukola Saraki. Abdullahi served as Minister of Sports in the Goodluck Jonathan administration and was the Deputy Director, Directorate of Policy and Strategy of the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation. It is not clear if President Buhari will accept Abdullahi’s candidacy. If he does, then the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, may end up as Special Adviser to the President on Aviation.
But if the president rejects Abdullahi, then a technocrat or Mohammed may fill the Kwara ministerial slot.
In Ekiti, the hope of former Governors Niyi Adebayo, Segun Oni and Kayode Fayemi was dashed by the choice of human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN). Vice-President Osinbajo was said to have, in conjunction with Tinubu, pushed for his candidacy as the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. It was learnt that General Adeyinka Adebayo (rtd) lobbied retired Generals to have his son, Niyi, as Ekiti nominee.
New Telegraph reliably learnt that the APC South- West leaders have agreed that the ambassadorial slot for Ekiti is reserved for Fayemi.
In Adamawa, Boss Gida Mustapha, a lawyer, has been tipped by the president as minister. Mustapha lost the APC governorship ticket to Senator Bindow Jibrilla, now governor.
He was a member of the Ahmed Joda-led transition committee set up by the president. He is a former Deputy National Chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Alhaji Abubakar Malami (SAN), a member of the Ahmed Joda transition committee, has been tapped for the Kebbi ministerial slot.
He was with Buhari in the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) where he served as National Legal Adviser.